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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A voice in the woods

We had just started our daily flume walk when I heard baritone notes. 

He was good, whoever he was, but I couldn't identify the piece. 

It sounded like Gregorian Chant or maybe an aria.

Then I saw him through the trees, a white-haired fellow walking along the highway.

It was too early to meet an extrovert, but he saw me too.

"I just saw a big black animal cross the highway."

"Really!" says I. 

"Mighta been a bear, coulda been a dog." 

(Yeah, sure, I'm thinking -- he's going to make my day more exciting. I guess he doesn' t know the bears around here are brown.)

"I'll keep an eye out for it." (I'm still walking). 

"Yeah, about 150 yards back . . . ,"  he continues. 

"Okay, I'll be watching -- have a good one." 

We covered 6 miles that day with no sign of bears.

The next day Fred and I were the only ones on the trail. 

The wind was stirring the pines and Fred was racing back and  forth on the far side of the flume, when something suddenly crashed through a patch of dogwood and ran away from me. 

I don't know if it was brown or black, but I know it was a bear -- about 40 yards away in a thicket where I gathered gooseberries in August.

No fleeing deer snaps saplings like that, and there was no sound of bounding. 

Yesterday Fred picked up the scent like an old hound and followed his nose into the thicket. 

I'm not imagining things.

I guess the voice in the woods was right.  

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